Minivan Crate Platform
- 1 4×8′ sheet of plywood (3/8")
- 1 2×12"x8′ board (check for straightness)
- 6 3" "L" braces
- 12 1/4" x 1" carriage bolt w/nuts & washers
- 1 box of 2" panhead woodscrews
- Optional: 3/8" aluminum edging
- Optional: 6 glass hangers
- Optional: polyurethane stain
- Circular saw
- Handheld drill
- 1/4" bit or bore
- Optional: chalk line
- Optional: 1/8" bit for starting screws
Measurements You’ll Need
- Depth of shelf
- Width of front and rear edges (same or taper?)
- Width of wheel wells
- Height of shelf
Before you start, you’ll need to decide how much clearance you want under your shelf. These directions assume 11.5", which should fit nicely over your wheel wells and allow for adequate storage underneath. It’s a good idea to measure the height of any equipment boxes you’ll want to stow underneath, to be sure this is adequate.
Remember that you may need to retain the ability to add a captain’s chair in front of the shelf, so measure with those in place. If in doubt, use masking tape to mark your platform on the floor of your van, and measure these marks.
My shelf is just about the maximum size you can fit into the extended wheelbase (the default Astro…which is longer than the AWD Astro). It measures 62.5" wide along the front edge of the shelf, and 60" wide along the rear edge of the shelf. It is 40" deep, and has a clearance of about 11.5" (default 2″x12″ board). Along the front edge, there is a 7" "stop" strip of plywood at floor level, to prevent equipment from sliding from under the shelf, while retaining the ability to reach in and grab things that slide or roll to the front. I can fit two 500s side by side OR two 400s and one 100.
For ease of construction, and ease of removing and replacing the shelf, you may want to consider building the shelf with equal front and rear edges of 60" or slightly less. If you use different dimensions, be aware that you’ll have to cut the sides at an angle, which can considerably increase the difficulty for do-it-your-selfers.
As a finepoint, the plywood I used is furniture grade, poly-stained to match the wood details in my Astro van, and I used aluminum edging along all four sides to make a smooth, durable edge.
- After determining the dimensions you want, cut your plywood sheet and test fit it above your wheel wells.
- Cut two matching pieces of the 2×12 to the depth of your shelf.
- Flip the plywood so that you are working on the bottom side.
- Mark the outer line you’ll want the 2x12s to follow. Make sure you allow for your wheel well depth!
- Place your 2×12 on the line and trace the inside edge, where your "L" braces will attach. See Graphic of finished bottom for reference.
- Measure the length between your outside lines (wheel well marks).
- Cut the scrap plywood remaining to this length and rip it to 6-8" tall (your preference).
- Place an "L" brace on the inner line about 10" from an edge and mark the placement of the holes that will attach the top to the brace (two should be sufficient, if your braces have three).
- Place a second "L" brace on the line about 10" from the opposite edge and mark the holes.
- Place a third "L" brace midway on the line and mark the holes.
- Repeat on the opposite side, mirror image.
- Use a 1/4" bit or bore to drill the 12 holes.
- Attach "L" braces with carriage bolt (top of bolt should be on top of platform) using washer and nut. See Graphic for reference.
- Place 2×12 on line, and screw each "L" brace to boards
- Flip platform and mark center of 2×12 on both edges with pencil.
- Snap a chalkline or lightly pencil a line connecting those points
- Screw top to 2×12 (approximately every 4-8"). See Graphic of finished top.
- Screw the "stop" strip to the 2x12s on the front edge of the platform. See Closeup of "stop" (mat obscuring the bottom–it really is a little over half the height)
- Finish as desired.
There are lots of opinions on the best way to finish (or not finish) your platform. I recommend polyurethane for easy cleanup, but do be aware that this will show scratches over time. Many people opt for no finish at all…or use a material like indoor/outdoor carpet or grooming table rubber. I personally use a piece of non-skid rubber made for holding area rugs on wood floors under my crates, to minimize noise and make them completely non-slip. I also cut pieces of this same non-skid material to place in my crates under their pans to minimize rattle. Even plastic pans benefit.
To maintain the integrity of the edges, and avoid splinters and catches, I recommend adding 3/8" aluminum edging (available at any large hardware store). I screwed the edging on, and used tool dip to paint the corners.
If you use wire cages, you may want to consider adding stays to the platform. I found my stays in the mirror/glass hanging section of Home Depot. See a photo of a stay, and my configuration. I put two stays for each crate on the front edge of the platform, and one at the rear edge (you will have to measure!). Sliding the crate into the stays takes a bit of practice to do smoothly, but it makes a huge difference in a hard stop, without making it hard to remove the crates (as opposed to the alternative, bolting the crates through the platform). Over time (and with urban driving abuse), these stays will start to deform or corrode, and may need to be replaced…but they help a great deal!
For vari-kennels, you can use cable ties to fasten the crates to the seat belt anchors.
As you can see from the picture, there’s quite a bit of room along the wheel wells, too…enough for a folding chair to be stowed on each side, gallon jugs of water, tennis ball cans, etc…and you can easily slide an ex-pen and folding crate or grooming table under the shelf.
As an additional note for those who carpool, you can fit another two 400s or one 500/700 on the floor facing the sliding side door, with the rear captain’s chairs removed.